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In collecting data on diversity, asking someone’s gender is a biased, leading question, even (especially) when it offers a bunch of options including non-binary, gender queer and gender non-conforming. It presumes and forces a gender identity theory frame on the respondent’s lived experience of the sex/gender system. It’s like viewing that experience through a bundle of narrow straw hole lenses, and asking which straw hole lens correctly assimilates you into its underlying theory of gender identity politics.
Once you buy into one of the lenses, the underlying theory then resorts to a con-man’s theory of consent to tell social engineers what they can get away with doing to you to orchestrate your socioeconomic behavior in relation to others. It ingests this information into some murky utilitarian calculus of sex/gender cultural segregation. It is the racialization of sex/gender, like the racialization of mythological culture that underpins the theosophical and anthroposophical roots of most New Age movements.
We don’t need surveys that feed faux consent and justification to fearful social engineers to cast us into racialized types so they can train us how to treat each other ecumenically, with “dignity”, each according to our “inclusively” honored “diverse” typecast nature.
To get more sincere, valid and meaningful information about people’s sex/gender experience that elicits and informs rather than suppresses and erases our American values of liberty and equality for all, a survey could ask:
“How many people in your workplace perceive your gender as …” and provide a grid of gender perception options vs number or percent ranges.
“How many people in the broader community outside your workplace perceive your gender as …” with a grid of gender perception options vs number or percent ranges.
“How many people in your private life perceive your gender as …” with grid of gender perception options vs number or percent ranges.
“How strongly does your perceived gender at work limit your spontaneity and ease in your workplace communications and relationships?” with a Likert scale from extremely to not at all.
This would be a cis scale without stereotype threat, and it would capture the extent to which all people feel constrained by gender, even those who persistently pursue a cis-conformist-assimilationist internalized-passing strategy through its minefields. Even people who adore their perceived gender and take joy in conforming to it will admit it can be restricting, difficult or stressful at times to live up to it or maintain it for the sake of others.
“How strongly does your perceived gender in the broader community limit your spontaneity and ease in your community communications and relationships?”
“How strongly does your perceived gender in your private life limit your spontaneity and ease in your private communications and relationships?”
This more open-ended approach to measuring gender experience also gives ambit to a self-in-relation communitarian experience of agency and identity, which is more inclusive of Catholics and other communitarian cultural or spiritual traditions such as many tribal traditions and that of many African, Native American and Asian civilizations, instead of shoehorning the experience of gender into a Protestant individualist frame (who/what am I = “how do i look to my God in the mirror by myself?”)? Such an invisible frame only gives more proxy cover for today’s kinder gentler Know-Nothing/KKK movements across the political spectrum, and the WASP cultural-theocratic supremacism at their core.
In general, I also like to see “Decline to State” as an explicit option when asking anything about private life. Maybe it brings in less data, but I think it would build more trust by being less coercive, and the quality of the data would improve. It would be interesting to find, or do, a research study that tests whether my hypotheses about that are true.
It’s also important to measure the extent to which specific political and economic divisions are becoming racialized, such as when locally dominant political parties, factions or long-standing coalitions develop a bigoted mythology around the moral character traits of their locally non-dominant opponents. So explicit questions should be asked about specifically named political and economic affiliations or identifications, and about the respondent’s perceptions of the moral character of typical members of specific other political or economic categories.
I think diversity and inclusion surveys tend to ignore the fact that we live in the United States of America where our federalist republican form of government structures both the ground rules and the aspirations of our wildly diverse moral/religious private and civic lives. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in such push surveys, though, as they try very hard to coerce answers in favor of funding more diversity training for everyone under the sun, making more business for the industry sector that creates these surveys.
That help-yourself-to-more-money is one side of America’s success, for sure. But there’s another side that ought to be the guiding light for these surveys instead. We need data that helps us leverage the underlying commitment to religious tolerance that originally created our nation, not data collection instruments designed to create the illusion that diversity is something Americans need to be tutored on.
Instead of trying to generate data to justify building some consensus on the value and structure of diversity and inclusion in our workplace, we should be generating data to remind ourselves that our belligerent lack of consensus is precisely what our Constitution guarantees us, and what our enemies foreign and domestic most seek to destroy, because it is our strength. Diversity and inclusion in the USA can only succeed in one way, not as a harmony but as a cacophany, and as the obstinate right and demand to play completely out of tune with each other side by side, forever.
A good survey should give ample opportunity for respondents to express enthusiasm for, and assert their Constitutional right and need for, being surrounded by people they hate and who hate them, for their mutual defense against every faction’s inclinations toward theocracy and fascism. In one’s home, people we hate can be prohibited and unwelcome. But in most workplaces, especially any public ones or ones providing services to the public, people we hate are indispensable.
When inclusivity and diversity are not aggravating and morally repugnant to all involved, they are not inclusivity and diversity at all. They are just the opposite. A survey measuring inclusivity and diversity should ask how often one finds one’s co-workers and customers personally morally repugnant. Then it should ask how often one has observed one’s morally repugnant co-workers or customers doing actual harm to people in or via the workplace, and how likely one believes one’s morally repugnant co-workers are to do actual harm to people in or via the workplace in the near future. High scores on the first question with low scores on the latter two would be an optimal combination. Any score but high on the first question indicates a lack of genuine diversity. Any score but low on the latter pair of questions indicate a lack of genuine inclusivity.
Diversity and inclusion means freedom to hate bound up tightly with freedom from harm.
It is decidedly not freedom from hate, because that is always bound up tightly with freedom to harm. To be free from others hating me in public, I would have to be asymmetrically free to harm them, either directly or through state police power.
Freedom from credible threat of harm must always be guaranteed to all, including to those who hate me, wherever I or anyone else may go without trespassing. So we must find ways to render hate speech unthreatening wherever we do not restrain its free expression, and to apply minimal time, place and manner restraints on hate speech in circumstances where we cannot render it unthreatening.
Both the manner in which we render hate speech unthreatening, and the manner in which we reluctantly resort to restraining it when it cannot be rendered unthreatening, must afford due process of law to all involved. Otherwise society loses freedom from harm as a public value, and loses both equity and inclusion with it.
To measure diversity and inclusivity in a location, say a workplace, surveys and other data collection methods should focus on capturing the degree to which people in that workplace observe, experience, value and support freedom to hate, freedom from harm, freedom from hate and freedom to harm in the workplace setting. And they should measure how people in that workplace observe, experience, conceptualize and portray the practical correlations or relationship dynamics among those four working conditions. In the nuances of those dynamics, we can seek creative ways to achieve reliably consistent high freedom to hate, high freedom from harm, low freedom from hate and low freedom to harm.
This would give us the data we need to measure and improve actual diversity and inclusivity as independent attributes of the workplace, for the good of ourselves as individuals, for our families and communities, and for our nation.
Quid pro quo harassment is the use of an organization’s power by some of its members acting as petty tyrants, to dole out advantages or disadvantages to selected client-victims, often through a combination of fraudulent representation and insinuated coercion, so as to induce those client-victims to submit to a relationship of paternalistic patronage under the tyrants, whether within or outside organizational policy bounds, instead of operating within a lawful relationship subordinated to the equal rights of all under standard, fair, consistent and accommodative treatment of all, within the constraints of organizational policy.
Quid pro quo harassment discrimination achieves its coercion by leveraging the stereotype of an historically subordinated category of people as being at the disposal of members of another category, where “at the disposal of” them means subservient to them by virtue of a presumption of consent, a propensity to consent, a duty to consent or a moral or medical necessity to consent to a condition of minority or servility to them. The patron-perpetrator could not possibly formulate the intent to transact the quid pro quo under any semblance of good conscience without the justifying premise of that stereotype being applied to the client-victims.
Thus the very act of quid pro quo patronage, by its tacit reliance on even the mere perception or cognition of the client-victims as being suitable for the inferior position in that patron-client relationship, demonstrates its invidious intent to subjugate the client, and therefore packs within it the self-evidently conscious animus, even if it is not a self-acknowledged or self-examined animus, necessary to satisfy the conscious intent requirement of discrimination law, on the part of the patron-perpetrator, to harm the client-victim by stripping the client-victim of the client-victim’s fundamental rights as a person under the U.S. Constitution.
This presumption of the suitability of the client-victim to the client role in the patron-client relationship may or may not be shared by the client-victim, but whether or not it is shared has no bearing on the self-evident mens rea of the perpetrator. This is why even enthusiastically willing participation by the client in the relationship does not mitigate the severity of the harm done by the patron-perpetrator, for the harm in unlawful discrimination is not primarily to the individual person, but to the very integrity and viability of the republican form of government itself, and the principle of comity among the several states which quilts together jurisdictions with disparate community standards and binds the states together into a republican federation, rather than into a mere republican confederation.
In the U.S., stereotypes of any segregated subordinated class, such as a marked race, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion, boil down to a presumption of its moral divergence from the common law standard of “community standards,” which often translates into a perception of the marked category’s increased propensity for wilful, even inveterate, violation of state or municipal law, in regard to personal behavior and conduct both in public and in private. The moral fabric of the society is seen as depending upon the exclusion of marked individuals from family and social intercourse with the unmarked, along with their arms-length group subordination.
Stereotypes of any integrated subordinated category such as the marked sex, female, and the marked life stages, child and elderly, differ from those of any segregatonist stigma in that they boil down to a presumption not of its moral divergence from, but rather its moral necessity for the maintenance of the common law standard of “community standards,” which often translates into a perception of heightened severity in the negative social impact of the marked category’s violation of state or municipal law, in regard to personal behavior and conduct both in public and in private.
Thus any morally profligate or depraved woman, child or senior citizen is seen as a greater individual menace to society than an equally profligate or depraved adult non-elderly male. The moral fabric of the society is seen as depending upon the careful integration of marked individuals into rituals of family and social intercourse with the unmarked, through their arms-embrace intimate individual and group subordination to unmarked individuals and groups.
A quid pro quo harassment transaction cannot be said to be a trade in the sense of a valid contract because of the coercion involved, and might best be referred to as a pseudo-exchange. If the question arises as to whether there is always an unequal pseudo-exchange, or even sometimes a pseudo-exchange that results in apparent net advantage to the client, then a counter-argument could be that leveraging an indvidious stereotype always makes the pseudo-exchange result in net disadvantage to the client-victim. In any case, the pseudo-exchange is not a true trade because the patron controls both sides of the bargaining.
The very act of perpetrating quid pro quo harassment demonstrates its discriminatory intent because one would not feel a need to pressure someone into accepting paternalistic patronage unless one presumed that they were incapable of making a different, even contradictory, decision of equal validity to the coerced decision, if left to choose independently. Unlike an act of discrimination justified by any standard of review in relation to state interest, quid pro quo harassment colored by state power presumes a state interest not in implementing differential treatment, but rather, in persuading members of a targeted class to believe in, or at least act in accord with the presumption of, or in the conveyance of, their own moral inferiority, and is therefore a violation of, respectively, the Establishment Clause, the Free Exercise Clause or the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.
Class-based civil rights legislation fails to address the intersectionality of discrimination, and thereby fails ultimately to protect the individuality of each person’s contribution to the sovereign will of the people. Quid pro quo harassment under color of state power against an individual on the basis of any characteristic, even a unique one, and even an accurately descriptive one, still violates one of the three clauses of the First Amendment mentioned above.
If I patronize you based on the presumption that you alone, merely because you are you, are mine to subordinate, then I am still violating your First Amendment rights, even if no membership criterion except the pronoun “you” directed at you, can be articulated to define the class of one to which you belong, and for which I am regarding you as my inferior.
Surely to be persecuted as a class of one, and to have no logical means of escape from that category, is prima facie more invidiously discriminatory against you than if you belonged to a larger class from which you have no currently effective and available biological means of escaping. In fact this ultimate form of discrimination is explicitly forbidden under the U.S. Constitution, where it is called a Bill of Attainder. It is also deemed irrational in logic and rhetoric, where it is referred to as an ad hominem fallacy or attack.
It seems unlikely that the intent of the framers of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments, and even less likely that the contemporary requirements of republican government, could be or could have been to forbid state-sponsored discrimination against certain classes and against all individuals, but not to forbid it against individuals in other classes. This deficiency in the original U.S. Constitution was remedied with the First Amendment, and we should start citing it to strike down any exercise of state-funded or state-enabled patronizing selective tyranny.
I do want to clarify, in closing, that I am not saying that taking a patronizing attitude towards someone is in itself discrimination or a violation of religious or expressive freedom. I am saying that exercising state power on the premise that a patronizing attitude towards someone is justified does:
- meet the definition of intentional discrimination with malicious intent
- violate the First Amendment to establish religion, because to act upon someone on the presumption of that person’s moral inferiority is to attempt to indoctrinate that person and others around them into believing in that person’s moral inferiority
- violate that person’s right of free exercise by suppressing that person’s presumptive freedom to believe in one’s own moral equality with others
- violate that person’s right of free speech by suppressing that speech through irrational ad hominem attack
- violate separation of powers, because it amounts to an administrative ad hoc minting and execution of a Bill of Attainder.
- effectively violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on Bills of Attainder.
Where state power is not implicated, as with a host to guests at a freely attended private dinner party where no business relations occur, there is no violation of civil rights or the First Amendment. Contracts are instruments of state power, however. So wherever contractual relations are negotiated, transacted or performed, patronizing action affecting contractual relations does violate civil rights and the First Amendment.
The majority in Lochner v New York correctly struck down regulatory state action aimed at curtailing patronizing action by employers towards employees because it was itself a patronizing action by state officials towards employees. However, it should have created a safe harbor for state governments to curtail patronizing action by employers without taking patronizing action against employees, by allowing the state instead to take patronizing action solely towards employers. Employers were forcing bakers to work an unsafe and unreasonable number of hours per day, and were patronizingly disregarding bakers’ moral protests against this economic coercion, backed as it was by state power limiting corporate liability and providing state-provided infrastructure, utilities and police and fire department property protection. Corporations, and even unincorporated businesses, all rely on state police powers, special state-granted privileges and immunities, and state subsidies to operate.
All commerce and all enforceable contractual relations operate under state patronage. States have every right, therefore, to take patronizing action towards commercial enterprises, which are themselves the mere construct of state patronizing action to begin with. The state, therefore, has the right to impose a regulation on bakeries that revokes the charter of any corporation, or revokes the business license in regard to safety and health regulations, of any bakery that employs a baker for more than ten hours per day. This does not patronize the bakers, who can work more than ten hours per day if they choose, by working at more than one bakery.
The majority in West Coast Hotel v Parrish wrongly upheld a law taking patronizing action against employees. A minimum wage law that forbids employees from working under a certain wage is patronizing towards the employees. However, a law forbidding employers from paying lower than a minimum wage, but allowing employees to extend credit for a deferred percentage of wages under reasonable terms to the employer as part of the employment contract, would properly exercise patronizing action towards the employer while not doing the same to the employee, and still serve the state interest in blocking patronizing action by the employer towards the employee.
The aggregate differential impact of the societal phenomenon of workplace bullying along race and gender lines is well-documented.
In the U.S., men perpetrate sixty-nine percent of workplace bullying, thirty-nine percent targeting women and thirty percent targeting other men. Women perpetrate the other thirty-one percent of it, twenty-one percent targeting other women and ten percent targeting men. (See http://www.workplacebullying.org/2014-gender/)
About a third of all workers of color have been directly bullied, compared to under a fourth of all white workers.
This means that, collectively, U.S. employers massively discriminate against women and people of color by failing to eliminate workplace bullying.
But is a specific act of bullying itself an act of discrimination by race or sex/gender?
Consider the equal opportunity bully. For every worker of color he bullies, he carefully selects a similarly situated white worker to bully in the same way. For every woman co-worker he bullies, he carefully selects a man to bully in the same way. Is he discriminating by race? Is he discriminating by sex/gender?
Since he is subjecting all his victims to the same ill treatment, it could be said that he is not guilty of differential treatment of them. But we’ll return to that question in a moment, after we explore whether his actions have differential impact on his victims.
A punch to the stomach with equal force and surprise to someone wearing armor and someone wearing a cotton shirt will obviously cause far more harm to the latter. The same act of social workplace bullying done to two workers with vastly different degrees of social, financial, legal and emotional support will also cause far more harm to the one with much less support.
Since historically stigmatized and denigrated categories of people all suffer disadvantage in social, financial, legal and emotional support as a result of that historical treatment, its on-going practice and the likelihood of resumption or renewal of its practice, the bully’s actions have more severe impact on them than on those not in those categories.
Now suppose a female victim happens to be wealthy enough to afford top-flight legal counsel or to quit her job without loss to her basic standard of living. She may ultimately suffer the same individual harm as the financially strapped male victim. But in respect to the impact of sex/gender discrimination in society, she is still more negatively harmed than he. Most likely the man’s financial straits are due to his belonging to some other historically oppressed category, so the greater impact on him would be due to that oppressed status of his. The bully would then be guilty of perpetrating discrimination against both the man and the woman on the basis of differential impact on each of their historically oppressed conditions.
Now consider also that any reasonable worker in today’s workplace is expected to have a basic understanding of discrimination against historically oppressed categories of people. The bully thus can be assumed to know that historically oppressed conditions place individuals at heightened peril under any attack on their well-being. The bully must be held accountable for his foreknowledge of his victims’ differential vulnerability based on those historical conditions.
So when he applies equal force to his “punches,” he actually is guilty of knowingly inflicting greater harm to each on the basis of each’s historically oppressed condition, or at least knowing there is a substantial likelihood of greater harm.
Thus the theoretical equal opportunity bully actually is guilty of differential treatment of his victims, if he was mentally competent at the time of his actions.
Now suppose he adjusts his punch force to offset the effect of historical vulnerability based on each victim’s category membership. Suppose, against all likelihood, that he succeeds in actually balancing out the real measurable impact on all his victims. He has now very deliberately tailored his bullying of each to achieve true equal opportunity bullying, but only in its aggregate impact. He is still guilty of inflicting differential impact with respect to each axis of historical oppression.
And he is still guilty of differential treatment, because he has applied unequal force to each victim with the express intent of avoiding the added liability of having inflicted aggregate differential harm to them, and he has done so with a very conscious and deliberate understanding of the differential impact his actions will have on each based on their historically oppressed conditions.
Thus any act of bullying, no matter how it is done, is always discrimination as differential treatment, and as axis-specific differential impact, and is almost always so in its aggregate differential impact.
Derek Bell has famously attributed the state interest in extending civil rights protections to blacks as protective imitation of communist egalitarian rhetoric on race relations. If the legislative intent of civil rights law is not really to ensure substantive equality for historically subordinated citizens in their essential participation in civic life, then government-funded organizations cannot rely on civil rights law as a guide for providing a minimum standard of conduct for its agents and affiliates in the execution of its operations. It must find a standard for its policies, protocols, procedures and practices that aligns with a genuine intent to remove state power from its current perch on the historically privileged side of each scale of justice that has been skewed already by the historically unjust accretion of category-differential social power.
One step in that direction would be for all government-funded organizations to recognize, as a matter of policy, that bullying is always in violation of the organization’s anti-discrimination policy, whether or not it can be successfully argued in court to be illegal discrimination under current applicable statutes and case law.
Policies allowing self-identified gender to determine public or workplace restroom and locker room choice cry out for an overall review of sex/gender equity, inclusion, privacy and safety in regard to restroom and changing room facility design and construction, and policies governing public restroom and changing room use.
For example, I don’t know if any public facilities provide full fixture-use-time parity in the available quantity of restroom facilities for females vs males. This inequality is consciously and deliberately perpetuated misogynist apartheid.
I think the full scope of policy required to do justice to all the concerns raised by restroom facilities as structural gender-norming scripting mechanisms must do far more than just replace sex phenotype with gender self-perception as the authentication test for gender-segregated access. It must delete all the gender disciplinary scripts it currently enforces, not just the one that says ontogeny is destiny, especially including these scripts:
- Women in public must be normed into the expectation that waiting and suffering simply come as part of the package of being bodily female.
- Women must accept that their taking longer than men on average to use the restroom proves their inherently inferior suitability for public roles in society.
I believe that many activists in the trans movement would relish the opportunity to “out” and castigate women who feel that m2f people in women’s restrooms and locker rooms present a safety issue for them. I object to that gender disciplinary intent. I feel it is wrong to call such women out on this particular topic, even to the extent some of them may be deeply bigoted in their attitudes against m2f people.
Too many self-styled social change activists today forget, or have never learned, that the right to be racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, the right to be a bigot of any stripe one is inclined to be, is nothing less than religious freedom, freedom of conscience, and moral self-determination. It is our fundamental First Amendment right to be wrong-headed, and without that right we have no other fundamental rights to speak of.
These thought-police activists are political bigots of the worst kind, because they seek to use state power to compel people to change their core beliefs to comply with state-mandated criteria. They have every right to be political bigots of the worst kind, and to be publicly vocal about it, but their bigotry must not become the basis of policy and protocol in the operations of a publicly funded institution or public accommodation, nor must they be deployed to suppress equal access by the targets of their bigotry to public facilities and accommodations.
Gender policing takes myriad forms, and persists largely because women rely partly on it to survive male-dominated culture. In my view, defending space reserved for the never-male-privileged from not-never-male-privileged people’s claim of a right to occupy it at will, is a form of defensive gender policing analogous to the overtly discriminatory practices that all oppressed-group separatist survival and resistance strategies employ under various circumstances.
Women’s restrooms have always been and are still institutionally active sites of misogynist disciplinary gender shaming against women. Granting not-never-male-privileged people free and equal access to the restrooms into which the never-male-privileged are still ghettoized, without also granting the never-male-privileged free and equal access to the restrooms they have historically been forbidden to use, the men’s restrooms, only further exacerbates the ghettoization. It turns women’s restrooms into the depository of yet another category of undesirables who have been successfully excluded from men’s restrooms.
As an m2f transgender, I refuse to de-occupy the men’s restroom, and I refuse to play along with the divide and conquer strategy that deploys my not-never-male-privileged status and my mostly male-perceived body presentation as a cultural projectile to smash the never-male-privileged separatist safe-space aspect of women’s restrooms.
Even without the inclusion of not-never-male-privileged people in women’s ghetto restrooms and locker rooms, I have been told by some women that due to the overcrowding, they often cannot feel anxiety-free enough to physiologically succeed at using the women’s restroom. This is even true sometimes when there are unisex individual compartments in use, as with porta-potties at outdoor events. Just knowing there is a line of people waiting can physiologically thwart the process.
Girls and women are generally socialized into habitually subordinating all their physiological functions to the immediate needs of those around them to some degree or another. That is a major component of what it means to be socialized female in most male-dominated societies. For some women, that normal female socialization process primes them for apex victimization by the deliberately inadequate restroom facilities constructed into public spaces. This is just one more way in which women in our society are promised myriad rewards for their gender norm conformity, but receive systematic punishment instead.
And then there is the intersecting issue of violence against women. I think women who feel unsafe from either male violence or shaming by other females in public restrooms or workplace restrooms, whatever their reason for feeling thus unsafe, deserve to be heard and accommodated, even if some trans activists feel that those women’s fears are based in prejudice, and even if those activists are correct.
Statistics on violence against women show clearly that women’s fears, however they may be distorted by various prejudices, nonetheless reflect an over-arching and stark reality about women’s often brutally enforced unequal access to public space.
When we compound this with the even more stark statistics on women’s unequal access to safe private space, and reflect upon the discursive choices made by those who seek to shame women for defending their tiny overcrowded islands of never-male-privileged-only spaces in public areas, I think we begin to see how the business case for a thorough review of restroom equity, inclusion, privacy and safety becomes absolutely compelling.
The greatly out-numbered elite classes are only able to dominate the masses by parsing them into oppressed-group interest groups and getting them to police themselves and one another. So there are many women who gender-police other women in often cruel ways. Mary Daly called them “token torturers.” It should come as no surprise that, along with some women assigned female at birth, some women assigned male at birth find themselves among the ranks of the token torturers at times. I would ask anyone who seeks to shame women for bigotry against transgendered people precisely at the site where women are already being shamed and punished daily for being women, whether they might be pandering to the dynamic of women gender-policing women, and to what end?
As a male-body-category, born-body-self-affirming, female-identified transgender person, and therefore not-never-male-privileged (and I would say always-male-privileged, but that’s an argument I’ll take up in a different piece of writing), who is currently indifferently gender-presenting with the effect of passing as male in most ways, I would encourage all women who would feel comfortable doing so to join me in refusing to conform to the ghettoizing signs on restroom doors, and deliberately use the men’s restrooms as I do.
Use them until the wait time for stalls is equal. Use them until the fixture use rate is equal, because even if wait time is the same, higher fixture-use-rate in periods of non-full-occupancy means less personal space and comfort, and perhaps lower cleaning and maintenance rates per-fixture-use-minute. The lower cleaning and maintenance rates can be remedied with increasing custodial services to achieve parity, but the fixture-use-rate inequality can only be addressed by a combination of facility reconstruction and access reallocation.
There are subcategories of women, unlike those of us who have enjoyed male privilege, who are not able to use public restrooms in comfort and safety, or even use them at all. Those other subcategories must be accommodated along with the not-never-male-privileged who self-perceive female.
I was once sexually assaulted by a homophobic heterosexual man I knew in a coed multiple-occupancy shared dormitory bathroom. I know what it means to feel unsafe in a public or shared restroom/shower-room. Due to the wondrous healing qualities of passing-as-male privilege, however, I have not had anxiety-based difficulty continuing to use public or shared restrooms. I have been keenly aware, however, of restroom safety as an issue, due to my experience.
The fact that almost all public restrooms have only one exit, no ready means to contact public safety authorities, narrow walkways that make evasion or escape easily blocked, almost exclusively hard surfaces that maximize potential injury on impact, noise seclusion architecture that makes it harder to holler for help successfully, and a courtesy behavior norm of allowing others to come in close physical proximity while in different states of undress or physical vulnerability without looking at them or regarding them with suspicion, all make them ideal sites for violent perpetrators to corner and ambush their prey.
Everyone deserves a consistently and equally safe, comfortable, private and anxiety-free restroom experience. Any policy objectives that fall short of that target, including those narrowly directed at accommodating gender-self-perception, are deliberate discrimination against women and others.
The term “microaggression” has come into common use of late to describe any personal interaction that has the effect of suppressing the full and equal participation in civil society of a member of an oppressed group. The mechanism of the suppression varies widely, but the usage of the term is generally meant to cover any such suppressive incident no matter what the mechanism of its action.
Some suppressive mechanisms involve suppressive intent on the part of the suppressive actor. Some do not. Some of those that involve intent also require intent. Some do not.
Common accepted usage of the term “aggression,” when applied to the act of an individual person, imputes intent to dominate. To stretch that usage to cover actions not intended to dominate, but which result nonetheless in domination, is to strain the term beyond intelligibility.
When used on an institutional macro-level, however, the common usage of the term “aggression” already covers cases where there is no clear intent on the part of the aggressive institutional actor. This is because imputing intent to a social aggregate requires anthropomorphizing the aggregate. To say, for example, that an angry mob had a mind of its own is not really to say that the brains of the individuals in the mob became biologically connected into a single sentient organism, but rather, to say that the individuals in the mob acted in concert temporarily as if they were a single body acting with singular intent, even though they were never actually that at all. The so-called intent of the mob is a fiction. Yet no one would disagree that the mob acted aggressively.
So actual intent is not required for all acts of aggression, but the exception is only in aggregate action. There is no such thing as unintentional aggression by an individual person. There is, however, unintended harm caused by individual acts, be they aggressive or non-aggressive, and some of that harm may be deemed negligent irregardless of the presence of either individual intent or aggression in the action.
In the case of mob violence, of course, the fictive intent of the mob as an aggregate actor generally coincides to a large degree with the actual intent of each individual member who participates in the violence. But to say that each individual in the mob acted with one and the same intent is to generalize rather grossly over the particular motivations of each individual, which can be quite strikingly different for each person in the mob, despite the appearance of single-mindedness to an observer of the mob action. In fact, the scariest thing about mob action is precisely that its apparent aims, and its destructive accomplishments, can diverge quite markedly, particularly in terms of the extent of its destruction or harm, from the actual intent of any of its participants.
The express intent of mob action can be quite terrifying in and of itself, of course, but what particularly distinguishes mob violence from individual violence is the extent and nature of its unintended consequences, unintended by the individual participants in the mob, that is to say. The full destructive consequences of mob action, of course, may well be fully intended by an individual who incites it. But the harmful consequences often exceed and diverge from what even those who have incited it ever intended.
The macrodynamics of oppression are often far more subtle than mob violence, but I focus on physical mob violence precisely because it is the most bluntly similar to individual violence of any kind of institutional oppressive aggression. I mean to show that the term “microaggression” greatly mischaracterizes the nature of even an individual’s participation in physical mob violence, and in so doing also to show that it even more greatly mischaracterizes an inividual’s participation in all the more subtle forms of collective policing of implicit and persistent social hierarchy.
So even if all the dominating actions we are calling “microaggressions” are intentional in the way mob violence is intentional, it is still inaccurate to identify each individual actor’s action in that mob as simply being a micro-instance of the same aggression that the mob violence constitutes as a whole. Mob violence is more than the sum of its parts, both in its intent and in its impact. Usually it is far more sinister and malicious in its intent, and far more destructive and harmful in its impact, than the sum of its parts.
So to label the constituent actions of mob violence as “microaggression” is actually to underestimate both the dominating intent and the dominating impact of each constituent action’s ultimate contribution to the mob violence as a whole. There is an exponential effect that the term “microaggression” does not sufficiently implicate. The term suggests an additive mechanism, and it thus invites misunderstanding of our intent in describing the actions we speak of as “aggressive” acts.
When we call the individual constitutive acts of collective dominance “microaggressions” we are pretty much guaranteed by the common understanding and generally accepted meaning of the prefix “micro-” to be taken to mean that those acts are mini versions of the whole fabric they constitute. They are these little aggressions that add up to the overwhelming aggressive dominant phenomenon we are complaining about.
This miscommunication generally results in one of two reactions by the alleged “microaggressors.” One reaction is to estimate the harm done by the single instance of “microaggression” and multiply it by some estimate of how often it is likely to occur. We’ve all had this discussion, haven’t we? The alleged microaggressor pretty quickly calculates that such minor slights can never add up to the sort of overwhelming barrier to the exercise of civil rights that we claim it amounts to. An argument then ensues over the incidence, prevalence and average severity of these “microaggressions.” Sometimes, really far too often for our own good, we actually manage to muster enough impassioned hand-waving references to anectdotal and statistical evidence to convince our conversants that these “microaggressions” really do add up to almost a single-cause explanation of the stubbornly persistent differential in various measures of well-being and self-determination across lines of oppressed-group membership that we dutifully cite references to.
The problem is that the aggregate intent and impact of all these “microaggressions” truly does not add up to anything near the kind of overall institutional obstruction that it would take to block the majority of the population who belongs to oppressed groups from taking quick and decisive concerted action to end our oppression, if that were all that actually stood in our way.
Most members of the dominant WASP category in the U.S. know that their ancestors fled religious persecution in their mother countries in Europe. Those of us not in those groups certainly know. We learned about their ancestors ad nauseum throughout our schooling. But for them it is personal. It’s about mom and dad and grandma and grandpa. They know how indefatigable human beings will be in striving for freedom, justice and non-subordination. This is even more true of non-Protestant whites whose ancestors, and in many cases even today they themselves, much more recently fled persecution in other countries and struggled against fierce discrimination here in the U.S. to achieve the relative condition of social equality we refer to as their “white privilege.”
It is no insult to us or diminution of us at all — in fact it is high praise and recognition of our full personal equality to them — when these alleged microaggressors laugh and tell us it’s absurd for us to think that the sum total of these so-called microaggressions could possibly be preventing us from taking advantage of the equal seat at the table they see lying there unoccupied right before us, waiting for us to sit down in it.
If understanding and alliance to end oppression are truly our aim, and not self-congratulatory confirmation of our victimhood, then we ought to name our oppression more accurately. We need to call each constitutive act within the on-going deployment, maintenance and upgrade of the complex machinery of self-perpetuating institutionalized social hierarchy what it is, not microaggression, but macroaggression, intentional and malicious macroaggression, directed not by individuals against individuals, but by dominant social groups against dominated social groups. Each act constitutive of maintaining, repairing, fine-tuning, feeding and caring for the persistence and exacerbation of longstanding social hierarchies is an intentional act of macroaggression. The intent does not exist at the individual level for the vast majority of these acts, and where the individual intent does exist it is never identical to the group intent, but the group intent is always there in each and every one of those acts nonetheless. The group intent is simply to maintain its elbow room at the crowded table of our democracy.
I have called this group intent sinister and malicious. Yet by characterizing it as merely wanting to maintain a hard-won seat at the table, am I not contradicting myself? Isn’t that intent almost beatifically benign? My answer is, that depends entirely on what the group has done and is doing, and is planning to do, to act upon that intent.
By correctly naming the constituent acts of self-sustaining social stratification “macroaggression” instead of misnaming them “microaggression” we can direct conversations about those acts towards complex systemic analysis and strategic action against the machinery of oppression, instead of towards simplistic imperatives to engage in mutual policing of insensitive thought, speech and social engagement. Macroaggressive maintenance of social hierarchy will simply morph into more and more individually indetectable forms if we train its minions to refrain from acting on its underlying group intent in ways that make members of subordinated groups feel discouraged from participation.
There are many many ways to exclude groups of people that do not require causing those people to feel discouraged from participating. The most effective exclusions, in fact, greatly encourage them to participate and contribute all they are able, accept their contributions heartily, then leave them out in the cold when it comes time to reap the full benefit of their work. Discouraging individual participation by inducing anxiety is just one way, and really one of the weakest and least profitably and efficiently labor-extracting ways, that in-groups maintain their parasitic dominance over the groups they marginalize and control. Eliminating that technique from the repertoire of the oppressor’s toolkit will not lessen the oppression in the least. In fact, it will only make it more difficult to raise consciousness among the oppressed to recognize the existence, nature, extent and actual wrongness of their subordinated condition during its extraction phase, prior to its disposal phase.
So let’s stop complaining about the oppressor groups’ elbows as if the boniness of their elbowing of us is the cause of our difficulty getting a seat at the table. Let’s stop seeking for some overarching authority to arrive and teach them proper manners, and to punish them for not acting gentile. Let’s just elbow them back and force them to make room for us, but let’s not mistake them for our enemies.
Our enemies are not the privileged groups sitting in the chairs. It’s their chairs. Let’s kick ferociously at the legs of their chairs until we’re firmly crowded into the ever-tightening circle of the table of our republic. Every group should be standing or in its wheelchair at that table, ready to shift and move as a truly socially fluid society requires.